Monday, January 4, 2010

No Sight of Injured Pier 39 Sea Lion but Missing Sea Lion Colony may be Returning

The injured and entangled sea lion that slipped in a distressed state into the sea at Pier 39 early Saturday morning has still not been found - but some of the sea lion colony that mysteriously disappeared in November returned today.

Sue Muzzin, Pier 39's Director of Public Relations and Advertizing, said of the injured sea lion, 'There has not been a sighting of him since Saturday.'

She confirmed that members of the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito called off their boat search at the end of yesterday. They had patrolled the bay around the Embarcadero, Hyde Street Pier and Alcatraz for two days.
The seal, thought to be a male weighing around 350-375 lbs, was spotted at about 10 pm on Friday night in K-Dock at the pier at Fisherman's Wharf. On-lookers were critical of the center when Erin Brodie, Stranding Coordinator, said it would be too dangerous to attempt a rescue in the dark on a slippery float.

The rescue attempt was postponed until daylight, but the sea lion suddenly slipped into the water and vanished just before 7 am on Saturday. He was bound around the neck and muzzle with what appeared to be a fishing line.

Since then two other sea lions with entanglements have been reported.

One was seen at Hyde Street Pier late on Saturday afternoon and a rescue attempt begun, but the animal went back into the sea. The other has been spotted at Belvedere, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

'The Marine Mammal Center is ready for any kind of rescue they can provide,' said Sue Muzzin.

At the same time, there has been another unexpected happening. There appears to be a return of some of the sea lion colony that vanished from Pier 39 late November. From record numbers of over 1,500 animals in the fall, the herd suddenly became a handful.

However, at 11 am today, Harbormaster Sheila Candor counted 20 sea lions congregating on the floats. Even though the Harbormaster counted 26 sea lions in the area last Wednesday, said Sue Muzzin, it is the first time since the mass exodus that there have been so many together.

'We think that's a promising sign,' she said. Certainly, walking up the pier this afternoon, a familiar barking had replaced the ghostly silence of the last few weeks.

Does she think they will return? She quoted Marine Mammal Center Director Jeff Boehm, saying that staff "were not concerned, just curious."

'We believe that they will be back,' she said. 'It will make all the staff of Pier 39 very happy. We miss them.'

The sea lions have generated enormous media interest. This afternoon as I interviewed Sue, she had just finished a call to a blogger with the New York Times.

pics show the sea lions on the float at Pier 39; the viewing platform full once more; tourists showing interest in the Marine Mammal Center information box on Pier 39, with illustrations of a sea lion rescue; a lone sea lion once again swimming in Mission Creek, further down the bay

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